Editorial: 5 reasons for frustration — and hope — as the world prepares for another U.N. climate summit
By Kate Sheppard
“We think we know where we stand in this debate,” British Labour peer Lord John Elvin told his audience at Chatham House yesterday. “We don’t.” Elvin is the director of Chatham House, a London-based think tank that has advised governments and international organizations on issues of international law, environment and development since 1971.
With his words, the 77-year-old former law professor and civil servant offered an indictment of the U.N.’s approach to climate change — and an encouragement that, in his view, the world is ready to take action on this important issue.
Yet, in his assessment of the state of climate change science, Elvin is more cautious. As one of the world’s leading experts on environmental law, he is not only a scholar of international environmental law but a prominent member of the bar in Britain and, thus, a well-established legal authority on this topic.
To his credit, he is also clearly opposed to action on climate change — and, given his well-known track record on environmental law and policy, he is not alone.
But, as he warned today, the recent rise in global concern about climate change is not reflected in the state of the science on the issue. “The science is not there” to justify calls for action, he said during a briefing to a delegation of legal experts at an UN conference on climate change that opened in Paris on Thursday — a gathering that Elvin had been invited to attend.
“The science has not convinced us,” he said in his testimony. “The science isn’t there. It’s not even close to being there. That’s the bottom line.”
That is an unusual statement from a top legal expert, particularly as the overwhelming weight of evidence in the scientific realm — including the testimony of more than 100 eminent scientists at the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel